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Egypt releases jailed opposition politician for medical reasons

[JURIST] Egyptian authorities in Cairo released imprisoned political opposition leader Ayman Nour [BBC profile; advocacy website] late Wednesday for medical reasons. Egypt's public prosecutor Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud [EMM profile] unexpectedly announced the release of nine prisoners for medical reasons, including Nour. Only two days prior, Nour's wife expressed her belief that her husband would be kept in jail beyond July 2009, his earliest parole date, and reaffirmed that the detention endangered Nour's health. Nour said that the release was indeed unexpected and did not result from a negotiation, and that he is eager to resume his political activism. He is restricted from running in the next presidential elections in 2011 by his previous conviction, and his party has experienced much internal turmoil since he was imprisoned. In November, internal clashes led to a fire [Egypt Daily News report] in the party's own headquarters.

A lawyer and former member of the Egyptian Parliament [official website], Nour was convicted [JURIST report] and jailed in 2005 for allegedly forging signatures on petitions to form the Al-Ghad Party [party website, in Arabic], a liberal democratic political party, following a trial that was denounced by human rights organizations as unfair and flawed [HRW report]. In the 2005 presidential election, the first multi-candidate contention in Egypt since President Hosni Mubarak has been in office, Nour garnered 8 percent of the vote against Mubarak's 89 percent. Nour's jailing was also a source of tension in US relations as the Bush administration petitioned repeatedly for his release. In March 2008, Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court refused [JURIST report] a medical release to Nour, who is a diabetic. In May and August [JURIST reports] 2007, Egyptian courts rejected two other petitions to release Nour early for medical reasons.

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